Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Can a mother really be this clueless?

There is a child in my son's first grade class who is a serious problem. The kind of child any teacher would dread having in their class. Halfway through FIRST grade and he's already been suspended numerous times. I've heard of a group of parents that is even trying to get him expelled. This kid is bad news - not yet 7 years old, he's already a pro at theft, extortion, lying, fighting, you name it. If you looked at his school record you'd never believe he was just a first grader. He's gone after nearly every child in the class in turn, mine included, and is now at the point where he must sit at a special desk next to the teacher because he can't be left next to the other children. There's no father in the picture (I've heard rumors he's trouble himself, it wouldn't surprise me) and the mother is apparently completely useless. The entire class, bar one, avoids this kid like the plague. They don't like him, they've all been burned enough not to trust him, and they're scared of him. The only one that isn't is another little hooligan who is following right along in his path.

Given all of this, I was awfully surprised when Itai came home with a birthday invitation for this kid's party. He had no interest in going and I certainly had no interest in sending him. A few quiet checks around revealed that none of the other children (except for the junior bully) had any intention of going either, nor would their parents let them go if they did.

I definitely didn't want Itai at this party, and all his friends' parents seem to have felt the same way, but I still can't help but feel sorry for this boy, to have invited the whole class (or rather most of it, she ran out of invitations partway through!) and have no one show up. How very sad for him. And a rejection like that, deserved as it may be, is hardly likely to elicit any kind of behavioral revelation. Quite the opposite in all likelihood.

I have to wonder - what on earth was his mother thinking to set her son up for that kind of disappointment? Is she so completely clueless that she honestly didn't know? How can she be? Does she have any idea whatsoever what is going on with her son? Doesn't she see that he's not inviting friends over, not getting invitations to other children's homes? I hope for his sake that there were at least all sorts of cousins there to distract him from the fact that no one from his class came.

What a strange position this is to be in, disliking him and pitying him at the same time...

20 comments:

angie said...

Oh how sad. Situations like these make me want to weep thinking about all that must have gone on to be like this......and one question for you.......did you want to be involved in the pay it forward from my blog? I think you just asked questions, but I wasn't sure.........

Anonymous said...

This actually made me tear up. I just kept thinking if this happened to one of my kids - I would NEVER let my kid get that far gone in the behavior dept, but you know what I mean.

Having been a single mother, I think she may just be at a loss. Until my husband came along, my kids were headed towards being spoiled brats. Not that all single moms are that way, but I was. Maybe that's this woman's problem.

mother in israel said...

Why didn't you want to send him? Surely the boy wouldn't try anything at the party. I would be hesitant because the mother might choose some kind of totally inappropriate activity, but barring that it might be good for both boys to meet in a situation like that. One of the suggestions given to stop bullying is to position the children, bully and victim, in a supervised social situation. Also, it doesn't seem quite fair to know that almost no children are planning to come yet not say anything (although I admit it would take a lot of guts!).
Anyway, welcome to school. It's terrible when there is a kid like that in the class, and you know that his home situation probably is the major cause. Good luck.

Robin said...

Angie - I'm actually already on somebody else's list, so I'll sit this one out if you don't mind. Next time :).

Anon - I'm sure you were doing the best you could at the time. This is well beyond a spoiled brat - he's a predator.

Robin said...

Sorry MII, I have to disagree with you on this one. In Itai's case we stopped the bullying with a call to his teacher (he was the last kid this kid sat next to before he got moved). I don't fear that he would try anything, I simply don't want my son associating with him, and Itai himself certainly didn't want to either. I would never force him to attend the party of a child he has legitimate reason to dislike, and I don't see that I am going to succeed at reforming this kid (who does not seem to be at all interested in being reformed) where everyone else has already failed. As far as a supervised social interaction, if the class had decided to do a bayit cham (where several children go to one's house for some formalized after-hours socializing) I would certainly encourage positive social interaction between them, but under my own direct supervision or that of a parent I trusted. Parents do not attend parties for kids at this age, and I would not send him into this house unsupervised. Who knows what would have gone on...

Robin said...

PS The mother has made threats at times against other kids (kids - not parents). I don't see a very fertile ground for a conversation there.

Mrs. W said...

Clearly this child somehow believes that okay, and that it doesn't mean these kids he's bullying aren't his friends. Man, what is he seeing at home? That poor child.

These things really hit me hard, because we've gone so long childless, longing to have a little one of our own. And then there are these people, who pop out babes willy-nilly and ignore them, or don't teach them, or just let them raise themselves.

It just makes me sad.

Nancy said...

So sad. I too, wonder the pain this kid has gone through behind closed doors to make him such a bad seed.

I certainly understand the kids not wanting to attend, but I'd RSVP, saying mine wasn't coming. If the mom asked why, I'd tell her.

Poor kid ... he's got to be hurting.

Lisa said...

Wow. I feel really bad for that kid. Sounds like the mom is useless and you have to wonder what's going on at home. You have to wonder if he's learning this behavior or if he's that angry. Alot of schools have therapists on staff. SOunds like if he's not talking with one, he should.

Got to wonder if he's got either some sort of behavior problem or just really angry.

But I wouldn't send my son to his party either.

margalit said...

I know in instances like this, the first thing is to blame the parent. And you seem to feel that this is entirely the fault of a clueless parent. As a single mom of a child with a mental illness that manifested itself very early on, I can attest that a child with this type of violence and aggression is beyond bad parenting. This is a child that needs help. Help he may or may not be getting. To cause him such severe rejection by an entire class refusing to attend his party isn't going to help the situation one bit. In fact, it will exacerbate it. This is an ANGRY child, and making him angrier isn't the right thing to do.

My thoughts is that this is kid with either a severe personality disorder, or an attachment disorder. It if is the latter, it's probably hell for that mother at home.

Have you considered that he probably acts even worse at home than he does in school? Because I can guarantee that he does. And can you imagine what that must be like for his mother.

I've been there. I can easily see the opposing side. What bothers me most about your story is not that the mother isn't doing a good job, it's that this kid is IN such a school in the first place. Kids with this kind of severe behavior disorder need to be in an extremely structured residential setting, where adults are watching his every move, where a level system is used to encourage good behavior, and where the love is unconditional.

How rejected he must feel.

How terribly sad.

Phyllis Sommer said...

wait...i had to read your comment twice. the *mother* has made threats against other *kids*!? this is shocking.

i feel sad for this kid too but i also feel sad for the whole class...it sounds like this is something that is affecting all the kids and that is really too bad.

oy!!!!!

Preethi said...

I am thinking of the junior bully.. are his parents unaware too.. what a role model to emulate!!

mother in israel said...

I wasn't thinking of reforming him, but I could imagine a situation where it would be good for a child to see a bully in a non-threatening situation. Just so he knows that there is more than one side to the kid. But I can certainly see why you would choose not to go near that mother or her kid.

Robin said...

Nancy, RSVPs don't exist in this country. Not even for weddings, let alone for children's birthday parties. (Yes, that means you never have a clue how many are going to show up.)

Margalit and others - I think you've misunderstood me, or rather I apparently didn't explain myself clearly. My questioning of this mother is not about her overall parenting per se. She may be an incompetent parent, or she may be a hard-working single mother doing the best she can under challenging circumstances. I don't know her enough to make that judgment. Her child may have a mental illness, or he may just be a thug. Not every adult criminal is mentally ill, some perhaps, but not all. Some just got their start as problem children and ran with it from there. With a mother who threatens other people's 6 year old children and a father in jail (yes, he's absent because he's incarcerated) I suspect that environmental and family factors play a large role here. There is no question that this is a disfunctional family and a child in trouble. I hope that the system is able to get him whatever help he needs, and if he ever shows the slightest sign of wanting to turn over a new page I would be the first to encourage Itai to extend a hand in friendship, but that is not the case right now. Whatever damage not attending did to this kid, MY priority is to my own child, and I will not force him to wait attendance on the child who has stolen from him on numerous occasions and threatened him with physical violence, and done the same to all of the other children in the class. I did not sign the letter asking for him to be removed forcibly from the class, but I can understand why some other parents would have.

Yes, I feel terribly sad about all of this, and I'm sure there is a lot going on behind closed doors, but my first priority is to keep my own children safe.

Hold on, I'm getting off track. What I was trying to say is that my comment about being clueless refers to the party itself, not the overall parenting - if I knew that my child was not endearing himself to the class (to say the least) I would never expose him to rejection in that way. I'd never want to set him up for that kind of hurt. I would either NOT invite the whole class to a party and make his day special in some other way instead, OR if I were seriously trying to improve the situation I would personally call each parent and ask them to please send their child and explain that I was working very hard to turn things around for my son and help him interact socially in a much more positive way.

Robin said...

Oh, and in the end four children from the class went to the party. At least it wasn't just one.

margalit said...

OK, so now I"m curious. Of the 4 kids that attended the party, what was the report back to the parents? Was the boy in question well behaved? Or was he out of control? Did the mother act like a good mom? Or was she all over the map.

I know that every thug isn't a nutcase.But a child of that age being so aggressive and doing such antisocial activities really does say something is very very wrong. Kids aren't born bad, but when there is a lack of understanding of right and wrong, and a strong inability for impulse control, you get a kid that is in big emotional trouble. My guess is he has no clue that the other kids are scared of him.

And this is from someone whose 4 year old child knocked out a teacher with a large wooden block and was suspended from first grade for biting his sister. I have SO been there, and it really isn't always bad parenting. Sometimes kids just get dealt a really lousy hand and there's not much you can do with a kid that that IN THE HOME.

Robin said...

I didn't get any kind of report from the children that attended. I don't really know them or their parents. I KNOW that it isn't always the parenting Margalit, believe me I know. I have enough challenges with Maya to understand that. There may very well be some combination of factors here, both mental illness and environmental. I'm sure that even if it is a case of mental illness the home situation only exacerbates it. Still, that doesn't excuse a mother who didn't even bother to find out how many children were in the class so she could make sure she had enough invitations (she didn't, and some children didn't receive one at all).

Itai did try to befriend this kid earlier in the year. The teacher assigned them seats together and asked Itai to help him when he had trouble with his schoolwork. My son made an honest, good faith effort to be friendly and help him and had his belongings stolen and his body threatened in return, to the point where the teacher had to concede that this wasn't working and bring the boy up to sit next to her. We're done. I'm sorry for this kid, really I am, but I can't make his challenges my own. the school has a psychologist on staff, this is her job. I don't have the skills or the know-how to do it, and I'm not willing to risk my son's wellbeing on the attempt. If that makes me selfish so be it.

Lis Garrett said...

UGH. How very sad for this little boy. You have to wonder what sort of trauma he has experienced in his life to make him act out so abusively to others. I don't believe that there are truly "bad" children, but their behaviors are manifestations of illness or disorder or circumstance (and not necessarily bad parenting). Still, I read your comment about the mother making threats herself. Maybe it's just a case of "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." You're right to want to shield Itai from that type of behavior, and I don't blame him from not wanting to go.

Jo said...

Well it's the mother's fault and if it had been me I would have sent Theo to the party but stayed myself to supervise. He sounds totally f*cked up child and kindness just might help, I don't know. I can't bear to think of him with noone at his party.

Jo said...

I hadn't read all the comments when I posted, but I still would have sent Theo and stayed myself.